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  • Writer's pictureErin Paulsen

Magical Morocco pt. 1

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

I'm not kidding when I say I've been trying to get to Morocco for years.

Brynn and I had been tossing the idea around for a long time, and once I decided to fly home to FL for a visit, I knew I needed to have something planned to ensure I would be leaving Florida again ASAP. Little did I know the coronavirus would take over the planet and I would end up quarantined back home anyways... but we'll get to that. Our flights were pretty cheap, and we flew out of MIA to London, took a train across the city to change airports, and then flew to Marrakech.

As our plane started its descent over the vast expansion of the Moroccan landscape the sun had just begun to set, and a soft pink light began to glow over the already pink city and the date palms that line the roads of her periphery. As we walked down the stairs from the aircraft, the full moon was gently rising up over the horizon, welcoming us to this magical country. Upon landing we had to fill out some papers detailing our previous travel destinations and if we had come in contact with any known persons infected with the coronavirus. No health checks were done, however, and passengers passed through customs with little delay. Exiting the airport is always the most annoying part of finding yourself in a new country.

In many places, there is public transportation to get to your final destination, but in Morocco, no such transport exists from the airport and you are forced to haggle and yell and scoff and pretend to storm off from the local taxi mafia. I am not one who is good at bargaining nor do I enjoy the act of trying to reach a deal. I will not let you rip me off, and you will not accept the actual price of the fare, so... It's annoying, but usually, they'll give in to the price you demand, albeit still slightly higher than you know you could get a ride for because you just can't be bothered to waste your time over $2.

We were dropped off outside of the old city walls because cars are not allowed to drive through the medina (yet people drive those funny little Moroccan motorbikes around wildly and without caution) and after taking a few easy right turns we ended up in the cutest little riad tucked away through a private little archway. We were pretty exhausted after our 30 hours of travel, so we dropped our bags off in our room, went down to the courtyard, ordered some couscous and wine, stuffed ourselves up and passed out in our sweetly minimalist, arched-doorway bedroom.

Our breakfast in the morning consisted of olives, khobz (bread), jam, boiled eggs, orange juice fresh from the trees, and lots of coffee. My style of traveling (wandering) usually consists of having one or two things I'd like to see in a place or a day, and setting out, expecting to get lost, winding around aimlessly, until eventually stumbling upon the intended destination. There were a few things we wanted to see our first days in Marrakech, but really we just wanted to wander around in circles through the medina, stopping for teas and coffees throughout the day.

The medinas in Morocco are no joke. I've walked through so many markets in so many cities and countries and I can without a doubt say there's nothing compared to the winding market roads we spent our time in here. They're massive, basically. Like small cities within the greater cities of Marrakech, Fes, Rabat, wherever. We walked and walked, as one does, and eventually found our way to the main square Jama el-Finna.

This place was packed with fruit, juice, and date vendors, as well as women designing henna, men with poor little monkeys on leashes, and actual, real-life snake charmers. I freaked the first time I saw the snakes. Like ran, fast, to the other side of the square. We were coming back to Marrakech at the end of the trip so we saved most of the 'sightseeing' until then.

We left Marrakech on an 8-hour bus ride that would take us up, up, up and over the Atlas Mountains out to where the desert began.

It was sort of like driving across Mars, the landscape was so red and rugged and vast and empty, like nothing I've ever seen before.

We were headed down to a small town called Zagora for a few days to spend some time out in the dunes. We spent a ton of time traveling from place to place around Morocco and the drive out to the desert was no exception. When we finally reached our little desert camp, we found we were the only ones there and prepared to ride some camels around the dunes.

Riding a camel is actually extremely uncomfortable and about 30 minutes on the back of one is enough. They're much taller than you'd assume and it's quite the trip to be on one going up and over the sand. After our ride, we made it back to our camp for what both my sister and I consider the best meal of the whole trip.

It was beautifully presented and fresh and delicious and more than we could have hoped to finish by ourselves. Our meal was naturally followed by cups of the ubiquitous mint tea that is so popular here. We went out to play and roll around in the firey sand dunes before we started the long ride across the Martian desert back to town.

Masjid Moroccan Style
A typical Moroccan minaret

Desert Tours Zagora, Morocco
Brynn and Rashid, our Safari Guide

Moroccan Roadside Views
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